Every Little Step



A wonderful documentary snuck into a few theatres  this summer, called “Every Little Step,” a bad title for a fascinating film.  It’s the real-life story of the casting of parts for a revival of the Broadway show, “A Chorus Line.”  You may recall that the original show was based largely on a late-night taping by the choreographer Michael Bennett of a group of dancers – their dreams, their frustrations, the stories of some of their lives – but always the fact that every one of them had a life-long vision of being a dancer.


The show that Bennett and Marvin Hamlisch and others put together ended up running 15 years on Broadway.  This film is about the casting of the first revival of the musical, and it is focused only on the casting, which turns out to be as compelling and exciting and sad and exhilarating as the theatre can be.  At the first open call for dancers who could also sing, there were 3,000 applicants, who stood on line outside the theatre where the staff could see them in groups of ten and make the first preliminary cuts.


The number of dancers slowly gets whittled down to the 17 who will work in the show (plus understudies) over a period of a half a year or more.  They are drilled in the numbers by a wonderful dance mistress named Baayork Lee, a 4-foot-10-inch dancer who played Connie in the original show.  As the finalists are picked, the tension mounts; we see the auditions, the rehearsals of songs, the attitudes the characters are supposed to convey, all in front of the director, the producer and one or two others.  Everyone wants to be selected, and we in the audience also have our favorites; sometimes we win, sometimes we lose.  One of the finalists is the daughter of the great dancer Jacques d’Amboise.  Others we’ve not heard of before.  We learn a little bit of the lives of most of them, but mainly we become directors ourselves; as we watch the finalists, the question is whom would we choose.  The tension mounts, as they say, and we are right there.